Claudine Longet and Spider Sabich
Guilty of a Misdemeanor
After four days of testimony, the jury took three hours and 40 minutes to return a verdict. They passed on the felony charge of reckless manslaughter but convicted Longet of criminally negligent homicide, a misdemeanor.
Longet accepted the verdict without emotion, although she later told reporters, "I am not guilty. I have too much respect for human life to be guilty."
She faced a maximum jail sentence of two years and a $5,000 fine. But no one expected her to serve heavy time, including the jurors.
"I wouldn't want her to go to prison, heavens no," juror Daniel DeWolfe, 27, told the Associated Press. "By no means is she the type of person who should be in jail. I don't think she's a threat to society."
He said the entire trial was a waste of taxpayers' money and that Longet would not have been prosecuted had she not been a celebrity.
"I think they should have plea-bargained and straightened this out," DeWolfe said. "There was no need to make this big fuss about it."
Such comments left Spider Sabich's family gnashing their teeth, and their aggravation only increased at Longet's sentencing on Jan. 31, 1977.
"The defendant did not intentionally cause the death of Spider Sabich," Judge Lohr began. "All of the evidence is that the defendant and the decedent had a close personal relationship and the death of the decedent was a deep personal tragedy to her."
He denounced Aspen for its hostility toward Longet, and he castigated the scores of people who wrote him letters about the shooting, most urging a tough sentence in the Sabich "murder."
Before sentencing, Longet stood before Lohr in a flowered minidress and begged for mercy on behalf of her children.
"My children and I are very close," she whispered. "We love each other very much. They respect me and they firmly believe in my innocence. They are beautiful. They are happy. They are very gentle and open. With all my heart, I would like them to stay that way." Lohr said he was certain that Longet would not commit another crime. But he added, "To impose no imprisonment might undermine respect for the law."
He decreed a $250 fine and 30 days in county jail, to be served "at a time of her choosing."
The Sabich family bristled at the sentence — and bristled again when Lohr urged those involved to "go forward to lives as normal as possible."
Outside the courtroom, Longet was less demure than she had been before the judge, lambasting prosecutor Tucker.
"I think it's very unfortunate that I fell into the hands of a district attorney more concerned with his own ambitions than with justice," she said.
Tucker replied, "She was the victim of her own recklessness and carelessness. It's always good to be able to blame someone else."